Monday, 23 September 2013

How to become a best-seller without selling your soul*


I have come up with a thoroughly naive and counter-intuitive three-point plan to sell novels and live off the proceeds without having to sell your soul or spend any serious money to do it. There is of course a catch.

  1. Write and self-publish a novel in one year. Doesn’t really matter all that much how good it is.
  2. Don’t promote it beyond the odd blog post and sending it to your family and friends for Christmas.
  3. Repeat.
That’s pretty much it. 

But there is a catch. You have to be prepared to do this for 20 years. Oh, and you have to be able to learn from your mistakes. But that really is it.

I have no evidence that this works, mind you, as I’m just on year two, ahem, but here’s why I’m sticking to the programme:

To be good at anything takes practice. So, it figures that your first novel (or two) is going to suck, therefore you really don’t want to promote the hell out of it because you are just advertising your inadequacies. But, you shouldn’t allow being wet behind the ears stop you from allowing the world to see your faults. You can only dry the backs of your ears by getting them wet in the first place. Or something. And you never know, maybe you have written a masterpiece, so it would be a shame to keep it in the sock drawer. But more likely the writing’s not quite there yet, or there’s no market for what you’ve written. Or your cover is just repulsive. So you try something different for the next novel. 

But the thing is, there is a next novel. You keep writing and you keep publishing and you keep improving. Also, you keep everything under your own name.

Plenty of folk will say you should go for an agent or a proper publisher or that you should not sell
your stuff until its been expensively polished to within an inch of its life, but I reckon that’s beeswax turd. Sure, always put your best stuff out there, but if you wait for the perfect work, the perfect moment, the perfect connection, you’ll be twiddling your thumbs when you could be publishing and learning from your mistakes. Hint: You can only learn from your mistakes by making them. So get making them.

Anyway, at some point you’ll have learnt enough that one of your novels doesn’t suck. The cover doesn’t repulse readers and there is a market for what you’ve written because you’ve been paying attention or your readers have. And then, you start selling and because everything is in your name—you didn’t sell your rights to any legacy pimps, remember?—you have a back catalogue for folk to buy. Or to sell to a legacy publisher, if there are any of them left in a few years’ time, for a healthy price.

But it might take 20 years. 

And let’s be honest, it might not happen until you’re dead. But hey, you’ll have 20 novels that you can be proud your grandchildren and great-grandchildren can read. You weren’t really in this for the money, were you? Especially now you’re dead. 

More along the same lines here.

*Actually, I have no idea.

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